A lot of the comments on here calling the game ‘trash’ are from people who have still nevertheless played 100+ hours of it themselves and continue to still play it today. If you hate the game vote with your feet and not give the company the benefit of why the game sucks. But you don’t, because this is not a bad game by any stretch of the imagination.
I have played many actually ‘trash’ games, ‘actually trash’ games get engagement hours in the 10’s and the discussion boards are vacant wastelands. Also, the fact that people (who generally like to win as much as they can), return to games they have more practice hours at (or a prior addiction too) –IS NOT ANY EVIDENCE THIS PARTICULAR GAME IS FAILING – it is MERELY an example of human nature. So a starcraft pro goes back to starcraft, or you go to aoe2 where you have so many happy memories and have the hotkeys better figured out. That’s a pheomena of one’s nature and not an argument for comparative worth.
$60 bucks for 100’s of hours of entertainment is pretty good value in my book – comparing to football tickets, eating out etc.
On a personal note, after years of server generated multiplayer online ‘experiences’ in other AAA game genres - I got tired of my personal skill level being irrelevant to my game experience. ( ie - Random number generation, dynamic difficulty adjustment, loot boxes etc etc - The levels and divisions games like COD, FIFA, Fortnite etc are just a sham, at least from the skill of user input point of view. Everyone presses about the same buttons once they have a certain level of experience but the server provides variable outcome).
This game (like the RTS genre in general) gives you honest feedback. It’s like chess or poker, you need to become a better player by a learning process based on your outcome. It’s hugely satisfying, provided the ego can take it when your stupid ideas don’t beat the opponent or the environment. I’ve loved listing various build orders and rush/push/defend ideas. I’ve loved training myself to get the relics more efficiently, or think about how I should decide which of the three victory conditions will best work in a game. When the win happens (even if it’s just the opponent not pulling off a scout rush, or quitting after early pressure) its always a thrill – BECAUSE IT CAME THROUGH THE SKILL I DEVELOPED. I used to always lose to scout rushes. I used to dread the longbow rush. I used to always lose v hard AI. Now I don’t. Feels good man. And I’m still a terrible player losing over half my matchups!
In poker you can go all in at the start without looking at your cards, or you can play a longer, more cautious game. Or you can do a high risk all-in mid game. Good players know when to do what. In chess you can steal ‘cheese’ strategies for quick checkmates, or use a combination of pieces to devastating effect. This is what happens in games of skill. You don’t hear calls for ‘pocket aces’ or ‘rooks’ to be nerfed, or that left of the dealer should be ‘buffed’. You don’t have a say on what your opponent does or how many turns the game takes.
You play the game as it is. There’s civs for those who can do high concentration micro harassment early game, there’s civs for those better at longer time scale macro. A lot of people are good at what the Mongols, French are good at…personally I‘m not so it’s HRE or Abbassid for me. You can stll win early game with HRE, or late with Mongols. The balance isn’t as bad as it’s made out. Sometimes, despite your affection for one of the civs - you just need to swap to a civ that has simpler early strategy you can handle - particular if your an average player. These are the more popular ones (if you know how averaages work), but even still are no guarantee of victory.
As a game of skill, I think people still love RTS and AOE4 isn’t a bad game in this genre by a long shot.